18 June 2009

Features of Yakshagana

This is in response to Yakshagana Kuchupudi Jugalbandi:

Thank you for the video. This is an interesting experiment with Yakshagana. However, it is very difficult to call

this Yakshagana. Vidwan Bhat's singing clearly misses the key features of Bhagavathike. I list them below

1) Sharp decay in end notes (Attack,Line and Decay are three prominent features of a note).

2) Unique hormony with the Yakshagana drone designed to bring the tone from as below as abdomen to give a special texture to notes (Yakshagana used Pungi of the Snake Charmers (Haavadigaru) as drone drone initially before using Harmonium. Tamburi should not be used as it does not suite the note characters (timbre) of Yakshagana singing)

3) Yakshagana singing has its own note inflections (You may call it Gamaka or whatever) which is conspicuously missing in Vidwan's Baagavathike. They are unique Yakshagana and in fact what makes Yakshagana singing different from other forms.

4) Yakshagana has its own Rekhe (body line). Mantapa is imitating Bharathanatya. Yakshagana is an independent form separate from other traditional ones following Natya Shastra although it has all the sections metioned in the Shastra (almost none have all parts). Shivarama Karantha explains this in "Yakshagana Bayalata".
(Tangentially, There are evidences to show that the father of Kuchupudi Siddhendra Yogi was trained in Udupi Mata under the name Siddappa/Sidda who went to Andhra later on [1]).

5) Mantapas costumes look good but deviate significantly from tradition and borrow from other forms.

If this is deliberate both Ganesh and Mantapa owe an explanation to Yakshagana fans and why this is being done. Shivarama Karantha when introducing his version ensured that the features of Yakshagana are not touched except removing dialogs to make it language independent. He only added few features without diluting existing ones. But as I said, experiments are welcome, but I only hope they know what they are doing.

[1] Yakshagana Bayalata - Dr Shivarama Karantha

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